A bill to ease the penalties for first-time possession of small amounts of marijuana cleared a Republican-dominated panel at the statehouse Thursday. GOP lawmakers stressed that marijuana would still be illegal, but possessing five grams or less would be a simple misdemeanor instead of a serious misdemeanor. Urbandale Republican Brad Zaun says youthful indiscretion is penalized too harshly under the current law:
“I give them an opportunity to get that erased from their record. This charge follows these younger people or these adults who make these decisions which ruins their opportunity with jobs and employment,” he said.
The bill cleared the three-member panel, but it has to pass the full Judiciary Committee, and then Majority Leader Bill Dix has to schedule it for debate.
“I haven't had an opportunity to talk about this with Senator Dix,” Zaun said. “I'm hopeful that he will give this a fair opportunity to be debated on the senate floor. I know this is an uphill climb.”
The lone Democrat on the panel, Sen. Rich Taylor, argued to go further and legalize recreational use of marijuana. A spokesman for law enforcement argued against the bill. A similar bill to ease penalties cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee last year but did not make it to the full Senate floor for debate.